When Vlad Dragomir travelled to Belarus back in September, it was his first taste of the first-team with the Gunners, but he’d already made his senior debut two years earlier.

All the way back in 2014, when Dragomir was just 15 years old, he played his first senior match for Romanian team ACS Poli Timisoara. It was only a brief substitute appearance, but to make a league debut so young, clearly he must’ve been impressing at youth level. It wasn’t long after that day that Arsenal started to take notice.

In fact, by the end of the season Vlad had signed for the Gunners, for a transfer fee of around £71,000. He said of the decision: “The Arsenal offer seemed the best to me, I felt that this is my place. I am very glad and I hope not to disappoint anyone.”

Vlad Dragomir
Vlad Dragomir signing his Arsenal contract. Picture: Getty Images

The journey to the Arsenal first-team would not be as straightforward as it was in Romania. The Gunners have always had plenty of competition in the squad, especially in midfield, which is where Dragomir generally plays.

So he remained patient, initially playing with the u18s, before slowly becoming a regular with the u23s, where he plays most of his football now. This season Vlad has started to become more involved in the goals, but the 18-year-old says he actually prefers assisting:

“I like to score, like every player,” he explained. “But for me, I don’t know, I like more to assist and long pass. A good pass long, a difficult one, like Özil or Toni Kroos, like this.”

Regardless of what he prefers, the general consensus is that Dragomir is starting to become one of the key players in the academy, and is getting close to being able to make the step up. That consensus was further reinforced by Arsène Wenger in September, when he called Vlad up to the first-team squad, for the Europa League trip to face BATE Borisov.

Dragomir said that the news came as a surprise to him: “I’m working hard for that and I was very surprised to be in the first-team squad (against BATE Borisov). It’s something great. You can’t believe it, but you’re living a dream.”

Vlad didn’t manage to get onto the pitch on that occasion, and his Arsenal debut will have to wait for another day, but it was a clear show of appreciation for the work the Romanian had been putting in with the academy.

Ever since then, Dragomir has been a different player for the youth team. In October and November he scored four goals and assisted one in six u23 appearances, and his goal contributions only dried up when he was moved to left wing-back against Reading. That match finished 0-0, and the lack of creativity in central areas was noted as a key reason for that.

Nonetheless, the u21 international seems fully motivated to get another opportunity with the first-team, and when he gets one, I’m sure he’ll take it.